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Join the debate on the future of the Surrey Hills

When we visualise the nation’s ‘iconic’ landscapes, wild open national parks like the Lake and Peak Districts spring immediately to mind. But the South East and East of England are also blessed with designated landscapes including the New Forest, South Downs and Norfolk Broads, plus Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) like the Cotswolds and our very own Surrey Hills. Together these landscapes cover in excess of 10,000km2! They are unique, cherished and valuable natural assets, and they are facing huge challenges: climate change, increased urbanisation and growing demand for the services they provide, particularly the opportunity for recreation.

Nearly 70 years after National Parks and AONBs were first established, an independent panel will undertake a new review of how these iconic landscapes meet our needs in the 21st century, and examine whether they are fit for the future.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove comments: “The creation of National Parks almost 70 years ago changed the way we view our precious landscapes. Amid a growing population, changes in technology, and a decline in certain habitats, the time is right for us to look afresh at these landscapes. We want to make sure they are not only conserved, but enhanced for the next generation.”

In response to the Government review, the Surrey Hills is joining the debate! A Surrey Hills Symposium hosted by the University of Surrey and sponsored by Wates will take place on Wednesday 28 November. This FREE event is an opportunity to celebrate the Surrey Hills AONB during its 60th anniversary, and to look towards the future. A ‘Question Time’ style debate will be chaired by BBC broadcaster Tom Heap of Countryfile, Costing the Earth and Panorama and a panel of experts will debate topics from climate change, future land management, tourism and business development to development pressure and London expansion.

Panel members include; Merrick Denton-Thompson OBE, National Landscape Advocate and Immediate Past President of the Landscape Institute, Daniel Raven-Ellison, Campaigner and Founder, The London National Park City, Hugh Broom, Farmer and Surrey NFU, Professor Tim Jackson, Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity, University of Surrey, Professor Caroline Scarles, Head of Tourism and Hospitality School, University of Surrey and Sarah Jane Chimbwandira, Director of Biodiversity, Evidence and Policy, Surrey Wildlife Trust and Surrey Nature Partnership.

Merrick Denton-Thompson OBE, National Landscape Advocate and Immediate Past President of the Landscape Institute, comments: “For the very first time the nation has a clear vision for our countryside, producing secure sustainably produced food alongside a host of other public benefits – beautiful places, a countryside teaming with wildlife, resilient to climate change and accessible for the health and wellbeing of everyone. Sounds just what we want but delivering this vision is a real challenge and the Surrey Hills Symposium is a chance for everyone to help!”

Greg Melly, Senior Vice-President, Advancement and Community at the University of Surrey, comments: “The University plays an integral role in this community, and our leading research into areas of the environment and sustainability puts us in a unique position of responsibility to Surrey and its citizens. We look forward to deepening the University’s partnership with Surrey Hills to benefit everyone who is fortunate to live in or visit this beautiful landscape.”

Surrey Hills AONB Board Chairman David Wright, comments: “This promises to be a very interesting debate, especially on the matter of whether the Surrey Hills should be considered a National Park. Although the Surrey Hills already has the same level of planning protection as a National Park, changing the designation and the name could have a huge impact on public perception. The Symposium will open the doors to this ongoing debate, and we are keen to seek the views of our residents and partners both locally and nationally.”

For a detailed list of speakers click here.


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